ACADEMY UNDER-19 GRAND FINAL
LEEDS RHINOS 10 WIGAN WARRIORS 34
PAUL ENGLISH, Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Saturday 28th Sept 2013
Wigan Warriors finished their season in style by scoring 20 points in the last half hour, with skipper George Williams and centre Chris Taylor both grabbing a brace of tries.
Williams, the stand-in skipper in the long-term absence of injured captain Connor Farrell, was the stand-out figure in Wigan’s win and he caused Leeds problems all afternoon.
With Lewis Tierney and Joe Burgess suspended the Warriors switched Ryan Hampshire to fullback; Leeds robbed of Elliott Minchella through suspension and Liam McAvoy through injury had Liam Sutcliffe stepping in, though the Rhinos were hit by early injuries to James Duckworth and Thomas Minns.
Second-rower Rhys Pugsley opened the scoring, running over from a short pass from Williams soon after Leeds had conceded a penalty for a high shot. A Sutcliffe 40/20 set up the position for a Leeds attack, the Rhinos crossing through Ben White.
At the opposite end Williams was pulled back for a forward pass; the scrum-half being recalled by referee Andrew Sweet after a double side-step and swerve had taken him clear.
It took the Warriors ten minutes to break through again, Callum Wright having gone close and Alex Foster having pulled off one crucial tackle. It was Hampshire, Taylor and Dominic Manfredi that linked on the right for the winger to cross. On 36 minutes Grant Beecham was also over after good work from halfback Jake Shorrocks to give Wigan a 14-4 half-time lead.
Five minutes into the second-half Ash Handley picked up a Wigan kick and outpaced both Manfredi and Hampshire in a thrilling run to the line, Nick Rawsthorne adding a superb conversion to cut the deficit to four points.
Williams finished off a superb Ryan Sutton break before Taylor crossed twice in the right corner. To round the scoring off Williams raced in for his second from inside his own half, running over 60 metres unchallenged.
Leeds had played their part with good performances from Foster, Sutcliffe and Baldwinson with their coach, Chris Plume, commenting: “We have had some good battles this year and that was one of the toughest, toe to toe for times and at the end they were two tired teams from all the effort that they put in. I think the best team won.
“Losing two players on the right side, and two strike players didn’t help – James Duckworth always tops our carry count and Minns is out and out pace.
“The role of the Academy team is to develop players for the first team as well as do well in our own competition and we have done well in both departments.”
Wigan’s John Winder commented: “It’s been a long season with 20-odd rounds, been tough because these guys aren’t used to playing that volume of games and it’s a great feeling to finally get over the line and pick up the prize that we set out to get.
“When you lose players like Joe Burgess and Lewis Tierney it effects you but we have blooded a lot of kids this year and Jake Shorrocks has played over ten games so it wasn’t too much disruption to bob him into the halves.
“It’s all about development and the pleasing thing is that we have got six of those guys first team recognition, and not just on a single occasion.”
GAMESTAR: George Williams – scored two tries but it was his vision creativity, organisation and leadership that took the eye, and not forgetting the strength he showed in defence.
GAMEBREAKER: The first try from George Williams on 53 minutes opened up a ten-point gap and signalled the start of Wigan taking command of the final quarter to finish their season in sensational style.
1 Jacob Morgan
2 Ash Handley
3 Nick Rawsthorne
4 Thomas Minns
5 James Duckworth
19 Liam Sutcliffe
6 Ben White
8 Dan Grange
7 Robbie Ward
10 Jordan Baldwinson
11 Alex Foster
12 Josh Walters
13 George Milton
Subs (all used)
15 Jack Cockerham
16 Matty Blake
17 Mason Tonks
18 Jordan Harper
Tries: White (18), Handley (45)
Goals: Rawsthorne 1/2
1 Ryan Hampshire
2 Dominic Manfredi
3 Chris Taylor
4 Oliver Gildart
5 Michael Scrivens
6 Jake Shorrocks
7 George Williams
8 Sam Brooks
9 Callum Wright
10 Ben Austin
11 Grant Beecham
12 Rhys Pugsley
13 Robert Lever
Subs (all used)
14 Jamie Doran
15 Kieran Sharrett
16 Ryan Sutton
17 Joe Bretherton
Tries: Pugsley (5), Manfredi (29), Beecham (36), Williams (53, 74), Taylor (66, 72)
Goals: Hampshire 3/7
Rugby Leaguer & League Express Men of the Match
Rhinos: Alex Foster
Warriors: George Williams
Penalty count: 2-5
Referee: Andrew Sweet
SCORING SEQUENCE: 0-4, 4-4, 4-8, 4-14, 10-14, 10-20, 10-24, 10-28, 10-34